- Title: WEST BANK: West Bank faces water scarcity due to global warming, experts say
- Date: 19th March 2008
- Summary: (MER-1) BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) JEANNE HILAL, DIRECTOR OF "ARIJ" WATER AND ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH UNIT, SAYING: "We notice this year that some aquifers dried up because of the lack of rain during the winter."
- Embargoed: 3rd April 2008 13:00
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVA50FXE65QD4ODG4S2TT76LVD3N
- Story Text: The Middle East has long been one of the world's water-stressed regions, and political feuds have led to unequal divisions of the area's water resources. But now specialists say it is also threatened by global warming which has caused a shortage of rain in the region over the past few winter months. They say this means water will be scarce in the West bank this year.
Living in the shadow of one of the most protracted political conflicts in the modern era, Israelis and Palestinians now have to also battle the forces of nature, namely global warming.
A significant decline in rainfall in recent years is causing springs and aquifers to dry up, leaving little hope that there will be enough water for both parties to share in the future.
The West Bank in particular is a semi-arid region, and during droughts its water supply is seriously depleted.
"Our region is characterised by an eastern Mediterranean climate.
In winter time, rainfall varies from year to year, it is never stable. This year we noticed that during the period before January 2008, rainfall was at its lowest. Comparing December 2007 with previous years, we found that rainfall in the West Bank was at an all-time low," said Jeanne Hilal, director of the Water and Environment Research Unit of "ARIJ", a Jerusalem-based research institute.
Scientists have observed that climate change, or global warming, has tangible effects on water such as: rising sea levels, the melting of glaciers, increased floods and droughts and weaker gulf streams.
"We notice this year that some aquifers dried up because of the lack of rain during the winter," Hilal told Reuters.
Hilal explains that water shortages not only impact the natural environment, but the socio-economic and political situations as well. Water resources are a main source of conflict between Arabs and Israelis.
"You know that the wall is acting as a separator, blocking the flow of the spring water," she added, referring to the planned 640-km (440-mile) Israeli security barrier that has been half-completed around the West Bank.
"Another result of the wall is that many aquifers are no longer under Palestinian control because they have become outside the Palestinian borders. So in addition to sparse rainfall, Israel is taking our natural water resources and also parcelling up agricultural land. All of these factors make it very difficult for farmers to access sufficient amounts of water,"
Israel has said the barrier, a mix of electronic fences and walls that encroaches on West Bank territory, is meant to keep suicide bombers out of its cities.
Palestinians call the barrier -- whose course encompasses Israeli settlements in the West Bank -- a disguised move to annex or fragment territory Palestinians seek for a viable state.
The World Court declared the barrier illegal two years ago but Israel has ignored the non-binding ruling.
The three principal underground aquifers that supply both Israel and the Palestinian territories are located in the West Bank: the Yarkon-Tanninim aquifer, the Nablus-Gilboa aquifer, and the eastern aquifer.
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